Sunday, December 28, 2008

Notes and stuff

A few observations from this week's games and news:

* Congrats to Pat White, who became the first QB in NCAA history to finish his career 4-0 in bowl games with West Virginia's 31-30 win over North Carolina. The Mountaineers had a moderately disappointing season, but that's a heck of a way to go out. White also finished his career as the all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks, and there are some pretty good players behind him on that list.

* Speaking of West Virginia and North Carolina, the Meineke Car Care Bowl's first quarter was phenomenal. Five touchdowns were scored in a span of six minutes, and there were no punts or incomplete passes until the middle of the second quarter. White finished the game with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns, and Tar Heels receiver Hakeem Nicks had 217 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

* Army could not possibly have selected a better coach than Cal Poly's Rich Ellerson. He's a triple-option mastermind who helped Cal Poly finished first in the country in scoring offense and total offense, he has a direction connection to West Point (his father and brothers were cadets) and he has already helped develop a successful program at a level with fewer resources. In other words, Ellerson is everything the administration could have been looking for in its next head coach.

* Wisconsin wrapped up a poor season with a pathetic effort in the Champs Sports Bowl, giving up 42 points to Florida State's mediocre offense and managing only two field goals until well into garbage time. I don't know what happened to the Badgers this year, but when your quarterbacks struggle all season and your defense -- supposedly Bret Bielema's specialty and one of the team's strengths -- completely falls apart, that's not a good combination. Wisconsin finished 43rd in rush defense, 75th in pass efficiency defense, 38th in total defense and 67th in scoring defense. The Badgers held only two opponents under 20 points after the start of conference play and gave up 30 points or more five times, including the final three games of the season.

* Notre Dame finally put things together offensively in a dominating win over Hawaii. The talent gap was huge, so I'm not sure there's much use in analyzing the numbers, but considering the way the Irish played down the stretch, their first bowl win since 1993 will make the offseason a whole lot easier on Charlie Weis. In the big picture, Jimmy Clausen finally got some time to throw and looked like the QB everyone thought he would be. If -- and this is a big if -- the offensive line consistently protects him and receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate continue to develop, this could be a pretty good offense. There's still no running game, but at least there's something build on. And don't look now, but with next year's schedule unusually light on quality opponents, this could be a nine-win team with even minimal improvement.

* Cal running back Jahvid Best has to be the least-talked-about superstar in college football. Best finished fourth in the country in rushing -- yes, fourth -- with 1,580 yards, and averaged 203.5 rushing yards in the final four games of the season, including 186 in the Golden Bears' 24-17 win over Miami in the Emerald Bowl. He also averaged 8.14 (!!!) yards per carry for the season. Oh, and he'll only be a junior next year.

* Dan Wetzel at Yahoo has an excellent article on Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who happens to be Mormon and a BYU alum. This column is a bit older, but it's worth reading because it's one of the few sane pieces I've read on the struggles endured by successful programs during coaching transitions.

* Looking ahead, don't miss the Alamo Bowl (Missouri and Northwestern) on Monday or the Holiday Bowl (Oklahoma State and Oregon) on Tuesday, which are two of the best offensive matchups of the bowl season.

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